Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
Long time no blog...
I haven’t written in a while. After our little guy came around I gave myself 6 months as a time to “adjust” before trying to get back into the blog. And now it has been nearly a year. I have all sorts of great excuses for why I haven’t done it yet, but the reality is I didn’t have anything to say.
Motherhood was thrust upon me with next to no warning. Having shared parts of the story of JJ’s birth, you can probably imagine the kind of emotional roller coaster that was. In one day I went from ‘we are going to for a routine antenatal checkup’ to ‘oh there’s no heartbeat’ to ‘oh yea there is, also it’s a boy’ to ‘oh this is happening today’ to driving home in the rain at 11:00 pm with a tiny person in my arms that I was now fully responsible for. I thought those kinds of things would make it impossible for me not to start blogging again. I thought that after 6 months I’d have too many stories of cute baby and my exceptional mothering to be able to get them all down. (Ok maybe not exactly that, but I thought at least I’d have a lot of cute baby stories). And I did; I do. So I was baffled when every time I sat down to write it was like staring into a giant grey void.
It took me longer than 6 months to process becoming a surprise, instantaneous mother. (Who’d have guessed??) Part of the problem was that I wasn’t just adjusting to becoming a mother. I was adjusting to my entire view of my life rocking and rolling until it faced the other way. Jon and I didn’t ever think we would have children, and that was a great plan by me. Then suddenly, God put this tiny, unborn person on my heart in a way that felt like my chest would crack open if he wasn’t part of our family. Do you have any idea how confusing that is??? Extremely, is the answer. I wasn’t just adding “mom” to my list of identifiers in my head. Suddenly every other identifier I had for who Kristin Coupal is was in flux. Kristin Coupal was a nurse, who worked a lot, and wanted to be busy with work, and ran a clinic, and wrote contracts, and oversaw accounting, and I was good at it. Then this little man came into my life and everything else took a backseat to Jon and JJ.
Who was I if I wasn’t the person who did it all? What was I doing if I wasn’t doing it all? In the last 10 months I have gone round and round with the Lord on what exactly it is I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve had to grieve the loss of pieces of my identity in order to celebrate new and different pieces of it. I’ve had to learn to let go. I’ve had to accept that I had proud, incorrect views of what is important it the Kingdom of God.
I have laughed so hard that I fell over because this child is so hilarious. I’ve cried because he wouldn’t stop crying. We’ve yelled in each other’s faces. We’ve been covered in poop. We’ve sat up all night together as he cried because he couldn’t get enough air when he had a cold. I have experience joy to new levels since JJ became our son. I miss him even when I just go to work at a coffee shop for an hour without him. I’ve experienced the lows of depression in a new way. I’ve learned to accept that I can’t do it all. I’ve learned I can do more than I ever thought. I’ve felt like JJ will never connect with me like a “real mom” and I’ve felt him cling tightly to me after a nightmare.
The last 10 months have involved processing so many different things that trying to sit down and put it on paper seemed impossible. I couldn’t write it down, I couldn’t talk it out, Icouldn’t even pray through it. I felt like I was floating along a river of changes and growth. Not all of it was bad. Not all of it was great. But it was overwhelming.
In recent weeks, I have had time to really sit and think through what has changed in and around me. I think the biggest change has been a humbling in my heart. I’m not as important as I like to think I am. I went from thinking proudly that I was so needed for what God was doing in Terebinth Ministries, to understanding the chastening truth that to JJ I am it. I am his mother. I went from thinking I could do it all to wondering how I can even come close to being enough. And the lovely thing is that I can’t. That’s why God promised strength and power to us, because I don’t have any of my own, not really.
I wrestled with God over giving up parts of the ministry I enjoyed doing for the sake of being with JJ. I didn’t want to step back from anything. I felt the familiar struggle that many missionary moms I know feel: what’s my ministry if I’m home with the kids? Now, I KNEW the answer was that JJ became my ministry. Jon was my ministry, and helping Jon be able to still pour into the pastors was my ministry. But KNOWING the right answer and believing the right answer are often not the same. I was studying the Pauline epistles when the Lord gave me the understanding I needed.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “that you aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”
1 Timothy 2:2-3, “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”
Well consider me blown away. I was so confused by Paul’s encouragement here. He seemed to be saying that by leading quiet and peaceable lives, we could bring people to the understanding of who Jesus is. But that couldn’t be right. Because American culture trains us in what I’ll call the ‘hero mentality’. Most Americans I know (myself included) have been raised on a steady diet of stories, novels, movies, shows, and commercials that tell us two things: 1- you are the hero of the story and 2- heroes must do big things! We love a David and Goliath, underdog story because we all are conditioned to think we ARE the David triumphing in that situation. We teach Bible stories in Sunday School and end with “so God can use you to do big things just like (insert Bible ‘hero’ here). Which is so true and so great. But somehow we leave out where quiet, every day faithfulness is as pleasing to the Lord as the Harvest Crusade.
The Lord poured peace on my heart as He showed me that faithfully raising our children to know the Lord is just as pleasing to Him as any big ministry we can commit. It can be just as EFFECTIVE as our big ministries. Scripture tells us that we are part of a body, DIFFERENT parts of a body. The Billy Grahams are called to what we see as ‘big’ things, and we are tempted to think we all have to be called to big things. But more often than not, we are called to the big ministry of being a faithful spouse, parent, neighbor, employee, or whatever. I realized I had raised up doing things for the Lord over being in relationship WITH Him. Whatever call God has put on our lives, our best ministry is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
So I may not be super-mom, and I haven’t finished processing everything that means, but I know that instead of trying to make myself indispensable to God’s Kingdom, my new goal is to live a quiet, peaceable life so that others can see the goodness of God.
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